Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Today is a scorcher. It is 30 degrees Celsius outside and not much less inside (a sad consequence of not keeping one´s windows closed in this heat). What helps when the temperatures reach the uncomfortably high registers is cooling, cooling and even more cooling. Wearing light clothing for example. Or not wearing a military helmet if you can help it. To those who could not help it in 1878 – and Berlin in those days was literally afloat with military headpieces of all sorts – a certain Gustav Niemann had a simple answer: ventilation. Here´s how.


Gustav Niemann of Adalbertstrasse 15 in Berlin (Kreuzberg) receives a patent from the Kaiserlicher Patentamt in Gitschiner Strasse in the same borough (by the way, the Patent Office has its seat in the house until today). His idea is perhaps not simple but definitely ingenious: a cooling system or ventilation for hats and helmets. No-one who has not worn a hat – especially a thick leather or wool hat – on a hot-hot day has any idea how miserable one might feel under the circumstances. Gustav Niemann knew it and was eager to help.

His patent was for a 10-wing tiny ventilator made of a resistant but light material that would be installed inside the helmet with a a piece of wire running between the headpiece and the hat´s sweatband, keeping the two apart. In this way the air could circulate freely through the remaining openings while the wind wheel inside would be responsible for pushing it out of the hat again.

Here´s how he argumented the usefulness of his invention: “The main advantages of this construction are provided by the self-regulating and permanent air circulation which results in the cooling of the head, in a better and unobstructed evaporation of the latter by preventing draught inside the helmet, in preservation of the hair, preventing rheumatism, loss of consciousness, sunstroke, etc.”

If it really worked remains a mystery.

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